The kanabō (金棒) (literally: "metal stick") is a spiked or studded two-handed war club used in feudal Japan by the samurai. Other related weapons of this type are the nyoibo, konsaibo, tetsubō (鉄棒), and ararebo. Related solid iron weapons with no spikes or knobs are the kanemuchi (kanamuchi) and the aribo (gojo/kirikobo).
Kanabō and the other related types of these club-like weapons were constructed out of heavy wood, or made entirely from iron, with iron spikes or studs on one end. One or both ends of the wooden type clubs could be sheathed in iron. Kanabō type weapons came in all sizes and shapes with the largest ones being as tall as a man and a two-handed weapon while the smaller lighter ones were primarily one-handed and the length of a forearm.
The shape could be similar to a baseball bat, with a thick heavy end tapering towards a slender handle with a pommel, or they could be straight all the way from the handle to the end. The shaft cross-section could be round (as in a baseball bat) or polygonal; that is, it might be multi-faceted with flat surfaces arrayed around the central axis.
The kanabō was also a mythical weapon, often used in tales by oni (Japanese demon/ogre) since they were reputedly extremely strong. Today there is a saying in Japanese: "Like giving a kanabō to an oni" – which means to give an extra advantage to someone who already has the advantage (the strong made stronger). A western rendering might be "like adding fuel to a fire".
It has been said that one purpose of the kanabō type of weapons was to smash enemies' armor, bones and the legs of their warhorses. The art of using this cumbersome weapon, kanabō-jutsu or tetsubō-jutsu, consisted of a mastery of both balance and strength; it required great skill to recover from a miss with the heavy club, which could leave a wielder open to a counter-attack.
Small antique Japanese wood club with iron-covered ends and iron studs (ararebō).
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